Skip to comments.QUESTION: Are free-trade agreements good or bad for U.S. manufacturing jobs?
Posted on 10/07/2003 10:53:06 AM PDT by Willie Green
For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.
The American consumers have hurt themselves by being awed by the "better deal" Trojan horse and consistently sending their hard-earned dollars overseas to the coffers of foreign-owned companies being subsidized by the American government. These companies then take the lion's share of the profits, pay taxes there to support their homeland, and come back and buy up more of the American pie, while greedy politicians and CEOs to massage our trade laws to their benefit.
Every American should read author Roger Simmermaker's hot new book: "How Americans Can Buy American" before our sovereignty is completely sold out and the living standard bar is lowered more. The first chapter can be read online, and the author can be contacted there.
Burdened with legacy costs, three times higher taxes and government-imposed regulations, domestic-owned companies have to compete with slave labor and are forced to look for the cheapest way to conduct business to please the consumer's demands for the cheapest, thus the job exodus.
In essence, the American consumers helped fuel the same vehicle that came back and ran over them. We will become a colony again by losing our manufacturing independence, only this time under Asian rule. Total capitalism will be the death of our middle class society. Do you think the wealthiest among us care? Only Wal-Mart workers and rich CEOs will be left.
The Internal Revenue Service was formed to make up for the deficit when the tariffs were dropped in 1913. That's why all four great men on Mount Rushmore were protectionists. Do you like April 15? Grandma was right when she told you, "Don't be penny wise and pound foolish!"
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
The usual: more anti-capitalist propaganda from Willie Green.
BTW, the Barbary Pirates attacked ships on the open sea and demanded ransom or tribute.
They were NOT charging legitimate tariffs on goods delivered to their ports.
We can speak of protective tariffs all day, and there are a few good arguments in favor of them, but to suppose that imposing them inflicts no cost upon us (through higher prices, retaliation, etc.) is absurd.
My comment about the Barbary War was meant in that regard. It wasn't fought over merchant ships sailing between New York and Georgia.
Since only 23 percent of the US economy is accounted for by goods, it seems to me that this is too narrow a question. The more pertinent questions are whether free trade agreements are good for:
The US Economy
The US Standard of Living
US Employment Overall
Yes. Yes. And yes.
We are losing manufacturing jobs to foreign markets. Better get used to it and stop your whining. It's called competition, and American workers don't want to compete. They hide behind their unions and the government, and they gripe about every new productivity improvement that comes down the pike.
Personally, if I were a manufacturing laborer, I'd get out of industry and into something else. Who wants to be useless baggage that society has to carry on its back? It's a free country. You can work where you want. Find a growth industry such as medicine or technology or service industries.
Or go down to the pub and cry in your damned beer. Most of us are trying to be part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem. Free Republic is not a good forum for your socialist ideas.
I agree that we've always engaged in trade, but I think it is much less accurate to say that we relied on it. The history of our nation is more one of growth and increasing self-reliance on our own resources. The importance of trade diminished as a portion of our GDP.
But it certainly IS accurate to say that trade was never "fair" to begin with:
The most egregious and inexcusable violation of another nation's sovereignty by the United States occurred in 1854 when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Edo Harbor (now Tokyo) with 7 ships (4 sailing ships, 3 steamers, 1600 men) and demanded that the Japanese open their ports to trade or else he'd open fire with his cannon. This was actually Perry's second visit to Japan. His demands had been diplomaticly rebuffed the previous year.
The consequence of Perry's actions was disruption of the Japanese currency, which eventually led to the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867, and the restoration of the Meiji emperor.
This blatant misuse of American military power for the benefit of private enterprise occurred during the administration of Franklin Pierce, a Democrat. It is an embarrassing stain on our national reputation.
There are people who identify themselves as capitalists, and people who identify themselves as Americans. The marxist world view says there are only capitalists and socialists/communists. If you identify yourself as a capitalist, you are espousing a Marxian viewpoint. Call yourself an American and if its true, then you follow the American creed.
I identify myself as a male and as American. Two dimensions -- are they contradicting each other? Of course not.
I identify myself as a person that believes in free markets and an American. Are these contradictory? Not at all. Why? Because private property and the freedom of exchange there of are as American as apple pie.
If one asks a similar question of socialists, one comes up with an opposite answer: it is because socialists have an objective of dismantling the core American institutions and values, that they are un- and even anti-American .
We have parted with unbridled capitalism for a reason. Of the two types of goods, private and pubic, markets fail to provide the public ones. It is for that reason that we have government stepping in to supply them. The present danger is, of course, n0t the existence of the government, but that everything is declared a public good --- as in the case of fascism, where property remained in private hands but the exchange was controlled by the government. If you follow the American creed, then you know that you need to stand with your fellow Americans to help make America prosperous. I am not sure you notice, but you apply the logic of the modern liberals: as W. Buckley famously said a few decades ago, "The liberal will not argue with you --- he will suspect your motives."
That is what you essentially do: you suspect, and even accuse, me of being self-motivated as the exclusion of empathy with my fellow Americans; of not caring for their plight. That is not fair, nor valid.
Of course I care --- it's the methods of reaching the goal where I disagree with the protectionists.
Many people are telling you that a lot of Americans are out of work and suffering right now. But you have only your self interest in mind and the good of this country and the good of your fellow citizens are nothing to you. See, that's what I meant. Your assumption is false, and it is not nice to assume the worst without a foundation. That's not nice --- one of the Commandments, in fact.
But guess what? It makes more damage to you than to the ones you suspect of egotism: by assuming malice of egotism in others, you end up being more lonely than you actually are, and farther from the truth than you can be: it is clear that you can reason, but the results of reasoning depend not only on careful logic but also on the initial suppositions, and the initial suppositions you use are at variance with reality.
What is benign about trade policies that are wrenching America apart and redistributing our wealth by fiat of the WTO to other countries?
Very timely but still an ill-posed question. Nothing in this world is benign. It is often said of democracy that it's a terrible system of governance but yet as not bad as any other we know.
Nobody claims that private property and freedom of exchange (trade) are benign. What's so benign in having a misfortune of being born into a very poor family, for instance? It has worked better than any other system, however, and that is why we support it.
The question therefore is whether there is a better, more just system than free trade. You come to a correct conclusion, that free trade is terrible, because so many workers are displaced. This conclusion is correct given the model. But your model (i) views Americans as workers, and (ii) disregards job creation.
Regarding the first, you forget that Americans are not only workers but also consumers and business owners (you and your parents own businesses through the mutual funds and stock purchase programs at work, for example. The ownership of our companies has never been as broad-based as it is now. Check at the number of shareholders on record of companies such as GM and GE). Hence, if you want to argue what's good for your fellow Americans, you have to consider how EACH of the three roles ---- worker, consumer, owner --- is affected by this or that policy, including free trade. These effects are hard to quantify not only for you but for professional economists as well. As a consequence, your conclusions may differ from those reached by others; much here does lie in grey area, and we do not fully know what is right. But we know that any opinion that concentrates on one role (labor) played by Americans and disregards them as consumers and business owners is wrong.
Regarding the second point, you, as most protectionists disregard a well-documented fact that job creation is greatest precisely in those countries where job destruction is large as well, and the net effect is positive.
Finally, the net effect of what you propose is precisely what accuse others of promulgating ---- wealth distribution. Unemployment is low --- in fact, close to what until recently was considered minimal possible. There are problems in certain sectors, especially in IT (which was far from average: it had one long big party with huge salaries ever since 1960s. There is no tragedy, but the party is over). What you suggest is that all Americans should subsidize a particular group of Americans simply because that group is used to high salaries. There is nothing American about that. This is very different from my coming to your defense in the face of a foreign enemy, from standing up for your rights, etc. If you think you have a right to a certain standard of living that I must subsidize, you are socialist and disagree with CORE AMERICAN institutions.
No, I am not going to make the same mistake you committed and accuse you or suspect you of malice (there is nothing more futile than trying to guess motivations of people). You come to such awful conclusions due to the lack of knowledge. You should refrain from judgment of these matters for a long while and study the subject matter a bit more deeply --- including the facets of economic life that are entirely omitted in your picture of the world. All the free traders are one dimensional characters.
I am afraid I have turned tables on you by demonstrating that it is you who views Americans unidimensionally. You reach strong conclusions without knowledge of basic economics and should be the last one of suspecting, let alone accusing others of the lack of sophistication.
They talk of getting the cheapest price by using slave labor to produce it. There is nothing more to them.
What can I say? In view of the foregoing, this makes me only smile.
Can you please cite one example between 1789 and the present? Any one example?
There you again. At its most basic level, a "Marxist viewpoint" would involve promoting, or sustaining, a proletarian revolution. And speaking of viewpoints, you should ask yourself whose are those closest to the tradition of Marx, yours or your "free-trading" opponents? In other words, before accusing someone of having Marxist tendencies, you should first explain why the true Marxists stand on your side of the fence.
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